U.S. employers cut a far fewer-than-expected 11,000 jobs in November, the smallest decline since the start of the recession in December 2007, government data showed on Friday, strongly suggesting the deterioration in the labor market was in its final stages.
The Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 10 percent from a 26-1/2 year high of 10.2 percent in October. The government revised job losses for September and October to show 159,000 fewer jobs lost than previously reported.
Analysts polled by Reuters had expected non-farm payrolls to drop 130,000 last month and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 10.2 percent.
The data will take some pressure off President Barack Obama, a day after he appealed to the corporate sector, at a jobs summit he hosted, to join in the administration's employment creation efforts.
While the economy has resumed growth after four straight quarters of decline, there are concerns that labor market weakness will prevent the recovery from becoming self-sustaining. Government spending is largely driving the economy's recovery from the worst recession in 70 years.
Since December 2007, when the economy slipped into recession, 7.2 million jobs have been lost, the Labor Department said. But the pace of layoffs has slowed sharply from early this year. Analysts believe the bruised job market may be close to turning the corner, with jobs growth likely early next year.
November's data was the strongest since December 2007, when jobs increased by 120,000. Payrolls have fallen every month since then.
The improvement in the labor market last month was broad based, with four sectors, including the government, adding jobs. Manufacturing payrolls fell 41,000 after dropping 51,000 in October. The construction sector shed 27,000 jobs, while the service-providing sector added 58,000 workers. Professional and business services added 86,000, while education and health services increased payrolls by 40,000. Temporary help employment rose by 52,400.
(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Andrea Ricci)